Posts Tagged ‘Deep As The Ocean’

I have always supported the concept of free thought and freethinking. Recently, however, after considerable research on the subject, I’ve been introduced to some ideas that really resonate with me.

From grade school on up, were taught to believe that America is a free country, and our freedoms are the reason why. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of this, and freedom of that.

It makes sense, then, to believe that freedom of thought and freedom of expression are among them. These freedoms certainly have their place for me, and for many of us. But to what extent are we really free?
Take freedom of speech, for example. Such a freedom cannot truly exist without the freedom to disagree with another’s speech, too. But it’s only natural that, no matter the subject in question, more people will agree with one view over another.

Eventually, a majority will develop, creating a society that subsequently creates an overall, self-serving environment. And by society, I’m referring to all the people, everybody, as a whole.

But, given that society can’t – and shouldn’t – be all things to all people, how could our freedoms be equal to every person in every way? Or could it be that a freedom is only worthy of being a freedom if it is in agreement – or not too far in disagreement – from the beliefs of the majority?

Take the implied Freedom of Thought. Some thoughts are important, even essential to the safe operation of our society. We stop at red lights, get to school or work on time, and obey the rituals reinforced by airport security agents.

But those thoughts are objectively measured, black-or-white, yes-or-no by definition. But what about abstract thinking? What dynamic can govern that? Well, it seems that the degree of abstraction to which we refer is the answer.

Those who think “outside of the box” are generally applauded for their ingenuity and even their willingness to take a risk in resolving some puzzling dilemma. “What a great person he/she is; I wish I could think “outside of the box” like that.” Yay for that person!

But what that special person, the one who “thought outside the box,” did was risky, indeed. The real risk that person took was in potentially offending society – the majority of society, that is – by thinking “too far outside of the box.”

All of us have comfort zones that vary in size and even in scope. Whether we’re kids or adults, parents and/or working professionals, black or white, male or female, etc., it doesn’t matter. We’re first and foremost human beings, and going outside of our comfort zones create exactly the opposite – discomfort.

This is never more true when it comes to thinking. Comfort zones which contain our thoughts and actions must be safe, comfortable, places.

It’s likely, then, that the things with which we are most comfortable are things that we have always done, things that we always do, and perhaps things we always plan to do.

Recently, I have referred to myself as a “dissenter.” It best describes how I thought and acted as a kid, and it’s also how I behave today.

But whether you knew me then, or whether you know me now – to even those closest to me, I’m called a “person who loves conflict,” and I “love being the bad guy.”

These statements have never been made in a good or a positive way, and rightly so. People have said it as if the way I act – which is governed by my thoughts – is somehow bad, or wrong. For most of my life, I embraced the idea that I truly was bad, or wrong, and that I’m the one who must change.
Though I always knew my place in the world would be different, I have not always been able to put my finger on why. All I’ve known is that I have stood largely alone amongst – but not against – the rest of the world.

So, I quickly learned to stifle my behaviors and remarks, because the way I spoke and acted drew negative attention – punishment – to me.

Thinking is one thing – behaving is another, and I have always had to conform to someone else’s idea as to what “good behavior” really is. Over the last few weeks, I have become joyfully aware of the presence of others who may also think “too far outside of the box” sometimes.

Interestingly, I find it ironic that many of the contributions most appreciated and celebrated by society today exist the form of creative arts such as art and literature.

These creators, however, have been – and continue to be – others who think in ways that are inconsistent with societal norms. In other words, these people are dissenters as well.

Dissenting thinkers have had to deal with the challenges of existing in a society that does not think – or behave – the way they do. Dissenters who openly share their thoughts require society at large to step outside of their comfort zones in order to understand them.

Is it fair to ask if I’m the one who is misunderstood? Yes, I think so. Most people live a familiar, routine, and predictable lifestyle. I am largely the opposite and, given my behavioral inconsistency, am far more difficult to understand. Familiarity and predictability certainly have their merits for me, but they do not define who I am.

Since the majority of people seem to operate most comfortably within such a structured world, it stands to reason that the possibility of operating in any other way is, at the least, discomforting to the same people.

My world does not involve structure as such and, though I understand the accepted view of the world outside my front door, operating positively and productively within that world takes me far beyond my comfort zone.

Unfortunately, that’s the very world I was made to believe I’d have to join, sooner or later. All along, though, I’ve tried to function in a world in which I’ve been uncomfortable. But that’s changing now, and changing fast.
In a society that calls itself “free,” I’ve not always found much freedom. And, as long as the world exists as I know it today, that’s unlikely to change.

Interestingly, the topic of religion repeatedly pops up when it comes to my having to defend the idea that I am a freethinking individual. Perhaps this is because, in one way or another, religion pervades every aspect of society.

But what about those of us who don’t believe in religion? To ask such a question, I’m quickly learning, is to go against much of society.

How is it possible, though, that all of those aforementioned things that are so highly celebrated can be found within the hallowed walls of libraries, museums, and the like? Don’t the masterpieces there originate in the minds of people whose thoughts and behaviors are unconventional and even oppositional?

In an American culture that holds religion in such high regard, how can such sacrilegious deviance and nonconformity be tolerated without creating widespread social panic, lest it unleash the wrath of the gods?

Well, in a society that requires conformity, double standards and hypocrisy are not difficult to find. It’s simply not possible for everyone to conform equally, and creative places such as art and literature, become excellent examples of nonconformist, “deviant” expression.

My belief is that there are many, not-yet identified “deviants and nonconformists” lurking in the shadows among us. These are the ones who can both “fit in,” and accept the conventions of society while also having an appreciation for its subjective elements. While these renegades remain unseen, their influence can be felt, so the seemingly hypocritical presence of such creative expression is allowed to slide.

It’s not uncommon, however, for artists and writers to find themselves, and even their very lives, endangered when they make themselves known through their work. “Social suicide” is a term I’ve recently heard for it, and it’s an apt one. Becoming a pariah is a very real consequence of sharing our thoughts with others whom we believe are trustworthy, let alone the world at large.

This, in fact, is exactly what I am experiencing. But because I’ve limited this sharing of my thoughts with someone I believe I can trust, I’m still facing negative repercussions nonetheless.

For example, I feel that having dared to disclose my unconventional thoughts on society marks me as someone who goes against everything for which society stands. I’m treated as a stranger, a threat even, because of it.

It’s little more than a continuation of the consequences that thinking “too far outside of the box” can bring.
Sadly, I also believe it’s a reflection of society at large. Asking anyone to think outside of their comfort zone is to understandably put that person in an uncomfortable position.

This has always been a one-way street, however. While I can understand the conventions governing most societal thoughts and actions, the reverse has never been true. Therefore, I have to be the one to adapt to society, not the other way around. The fault is my own, it seems, because I’m “so hard” to understand.

It’s a form of social bullying, though. Viewed simply, I am always outnumbered by a majority that always believes it’s right if, for no other reason, than because it’s the majority.

Does this kind of thinking anger me? Frustrate me? Yes, it always has, but it doesn’t always have to. While I’m not certain why it has to be this way, I understand that I have a long, difficult road ahead.

Similarly, while the work of great painters, sculptors, and writers, etc. are celebrated, their thinking is historically unwelcome. Beheadings, hangings, stonings, and more have all been very real risks – and consequences – of those who have tried to get their message out after proving their greatness in clay, in ink, in oils, or in print, etc.

So why, as I asked before, is it that religion seems to have such a hold on the way people think? Why is it that people will fight to the death because they think that their creed, benevolent and all-loving as they’re convinced it is, inspires them to do so?

It’s quite obvious that religions cannot exist peaceably among each other. Therefore, it seems only natural that anyone who proclaims to not be a believer in any religion at all will also be drawn into the conflict as well. In fact, I may even find myself an easy mark, as I will likely stand alone in the crowd.

Hence, “social suicide” is the perfect term for making one’s dissenting opinions known. Not only do I risk becoming a pariah, and being shamed and dismissed as “crazy,” but I may also be knowingly diving headfirst into my own grave.

So, why risk joining the fray at all, especially if such dire consequences may be waiting? It’s a good question. My immediate, gut-level response is two-fold: First, I don’t think of actively participating in society in a freethinking way as “entering a fray.”

Society may well not agree, and my ability to absorb considerable conflict will be sorely tested. Yet, I don’t believe that anyone’s self-expression, particularly in a world where “free expression” is claimed to be so highly prized, should be a fight.

In this regard, I know I’m being naïve. But I can always hope, and Hope is something in which I dearly believe.

My second response is simple: A life in which I cannot be true to myself is not living at all.

Could this be what the so-called founding fathers were thinking when they wrote into the Constitution that we are all equal men, “granted certain, unalienable rights?”

Well, you tell me. Many of these men – our founding fathers – were slaveholders, so the thinking behind their words is in direct conflict with their actions.

The slaves, I’m sure, saw it as well, and the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on them. In other words, they knew it was bullshit.

Statements like this are fighting words, I’m sure, for anyone who bleeds red, white, and blue. But just because I can see oppression that is rooted in government and religion – that I also know in my heart is wrong – does not mean I should be written off as crazy, or as a powder keg just waiting to explode.

I am not a young, idealistic student activist, holding a burning draft card in one hand and a tie-dyed, peace sign flag in the other. I am not a revolutionary, planning to take my cause out onto the lawn outside a student union building somewhere, chanting and singing songs in perfect harmony with other dissenters who are likely “just going through a phase.”

That might’ve been me as an undergraduate 25 years ago, had I been more aware of my true, dissenting nature. However, that isn’t who I am now.

Rather, I am gearing up for the long haul, and I’m not looking to take up arms in defense of my ideals. Still, I don’t plan to make any concessions concerning my beliefs on right and wrong. I have had to do just that most of my life, and my figurative well has run dry. I have simply given all I can, and my ability (and willingness) to give any further is nonexistent.

Further, it wouldn’t be right for society to ask any further such sacrifice on my part, particularly because there are so many other, peaceful and productive means of conveying my thoughts.

We all have a preferred medium of social expression, and I am no exception. Some are painters, others are writers, still others are farmers, home builders, and photographers. The people whom I most respect, however, are able to state their message in an articulate, yet non-threatening way to those whose thinking most comfortably occurs “inside the box.”

In this way, those who might be willing to step outside their box to experience something new and different, even if only for an instant, might safely do so. And maybe, just maybe, the peaceful word of loving humanism will spread.

Life has taught me that it’s okay to be and to think differently, and to be willing to champion a good cause that others cannot or will not embrace. Everyone should be able to do so without fear of reprisal.

This, for me, is how I interpret the concept of life within a “free society” and, though I may be naïve, I nonetheless still cling to Hope, and I believe in Love.
No government or religion could ever change that.

I’m a firm believer that there are no coincidences, and that everything happens for a reason. But this doesn’t mean that when something noteworthy occurs, we recognize it for what it is, or even understand the reason for it at the time. For over nineteen months since my accident occurred, for example, I had been wondering why. In fact, a long list of Why questions arose in my mind, for which I never had an answer. Why did this accident occur at all? Why did I survive it? Why is everything so painful? How long will it be this way? Why, why, why? And on and on it went. Clearly, I knew deep down there must be a reason for what was happening, but I never seemed to have a reason why. I became very, very frustrated, to a point where I was ready to give up many times. It never seemed to make any sense, experiencing these repercussions from my accident-the pain, arrogant doctors, and a general inability to do things I took for granted only a short while before, etc. To my credit, at least I kept asking and wondering Why, as if I knew there was a reason but didn’t yet know what it was.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve begun to pick up some solid reasons for what was happening. Understanding them has accelerated my healing-and minimized my most painful symptoms-just by being present, even though I don’t yet know why they’re there. And maybe I never will. But this didn’t happen by accident. For several months, there has been a succession of positive people introduced into my life, too many to mention right now, really. Their names will likely pop up here and there in this blog over time, but what’s important is that they are there for me now. In fact, we are all there for each other, and therein lies our strength.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it; one or two friendly people coming along here and there didn’t seem all that unusual. Then three or four more, then five or six more. Suddenly, I realized there were now several new people in my life, positive and powerful people who, though I didn’t know it then, would be the foundation upon which I could build a new life. As I said about how I now see my post-accident life in an earlier posting, “my adventure can now really begin.” And it’s true.
When it comes to uncovering truths about yourself that have been there all along yet you have failed to see them, it’s hard to describe sudden awareness of any of those truths as a revelation. After all, they were there all the time, but they just weren’t visible. But, as a close friend mentioned just the other day “when the student is ready, the teachers will appear.” For me, the most prominent and powerfully positive person in my life is my wife, Kami. She has long been a conduit of my energy-both good and bad, (often the latter, I must admit)-and it’s no coincidence that she introduced to me-or should I say re-introduced to me-a notion that had long been established in my mind, back in my mid-20s. That is, considering the limiting and toxic role shame has played in my life.
Growing up, I was immersed in shame. Mom and Dad had their share of shame issues, and these spread like wildfire through our house, to a point where it was our norm, our reality. Shame had such a remarkable influence and played such a powerful role that it, or more precisely the fear of even more shame, defined our lives. Though I think we were all too close to see it, the driving force behind all of this shame was Fear. We were always afraid, afraid we couldn’t afford this, or hold onto that, that maybe we weren’t good enough-or deserving enough. There was always a palpable fear of what could happen. Naturally, in the midst of such an environment, true joy and gratitude for what we actually had went unacknowledged and unappreciated. Fear was the dominant, driving energy, cloaked in the insidious disguise of Shame.
What we didn’t know then was that everyone experiences shame, that no one is immune from it. Nor should we be. There are many good reasons for the existence of shame in our world, such as the role it plays in humility (read modesty) that keeps any one of us from believing we are an all-powerful, living deity of sorts. But in our family, what we did not realize was that everyone’s shame-each of us individually- seems to us like the most shameful thing imaginable because it is our shame. But, for now, what I intend to address here is how shame concerns me personally.
Suffice it to say that my parents, both very productive people in their own right, had created a home that largely duplicated the homes in which they’d been raised. I believe they learned, as kids at home, that the conflict that accompanies fear-based living, in this case through shame, was a normal part of every day, family life. And so it was before them, then later for me and my siblings as well, and there is no fault to be found in that. My parents, being the goodhearted, well-intentioned people they are, simply did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Beyond that, their time was highly divided between work, raising a family, running a household, and all those other things that are part of everyday family life.
In this sense, they were probably too busy to see the real root of conflict within our family, even if they knew to look for it. I certainly didn’t, for there were many, many times in which good, and truly positive times existed, enough to keep us from questioning those occasions when life was less than pretty. Eventually, as I approached eighteen, I prepared to move out of the house and into the adult world. I had spent my final and most memorable years there as an awkward, self-conscious teenager. And just as the last song you hear can stick in your head long after it’s over, I similarly replayed many of the same experiences from my childhood, and it left me feeling particularly naked and exposed within my new world.
As I said, our own shame is paramount in our lives, for we are the ones who are most aware of it and therefore, the most vulnerable to it.
But, one evening a few weeks back, Kami made mention of a book by a man named John Bradshaw, who I knew earlier (from my early 20s) as the author of a book called Homecoming. Then, I saw him as just another best-selling author who was heavily promoted on PBS during pledge drives. It made PBS lotsa money, and garnered Bradshaw a considerable amount of attention as well. So, while I may have picked up a thing or two about his book-and even met him briefly as a volunteer answering phones at a local PBS pledge drive-I took little else with me then.
But as I said, there are no coincidences-there is a reason for everything. Kami brought to my attention a more recent bestseller by John Bradshaw, this one entitled Healing the Shame That Binds You. Suddenly, a light went off in my head and I thought, “A-ha! It is shame that has been my nemesis all of these years and that’s what I need to resolve if I am to ever make my life my own. Immediately, I purchased the audio version of the book and digested it hungrily, page by page, and chapter by chapter. Each section, it seemed, contained a parallel to be found with what Bradshaw mentioned and what I had experienced. Sometimes, it seemed as if he described verbatim my experiences.
And even though I said before that it’s hard to consider something that was within you all along a revelation, reading that book was a revelatory experience for me. The answers had been right there, under my nose all along, perfectly positioned in a place where I could not see them. But now that I had, it was truly liberating. I woke up the following morning feeling liberated-I felt so much energy, mostly gratitude and joy for finally coming one step closer to answering the question Why that I had been asking for so long. It seemed there was so much to think about and so much to do about it that I hardly knew where to begin. Nevertheless, I’d never felt more confident that this was possible, and I continue feeling this today.
Within a matter of days, an influx of people and events took place that raised my self-awareness to previously unimaginable levels. In fact, I have recently been so busy with these activities that it wasn’t until just now that I made this observation.
In addition to the influx of positive people that had already been showing up, these new events suddenly brought groups of such people into my life. The first of these to come to mind was the opening night of an eight-week-long program entitled A Course in Miracles. There, I was surrounded by like-minded people in a safe and sacred space. There, we were encouraged to articulate what we believed to be our best personal course of action for surmounting the sometimes overwhelming obstacles and/or toxic attitudes residing within us that served to block our progress.
Enter another “a-ha” thought, and I was off and running, this time in the right direction.
The following weekend, a Hay House conference event-named after its founder, Louise Hay-entitled I Can Do It took place in Denver. There, I experienced two days of immersion and concepts that all served to promote gratitude, joy, and positivity. The focus was upon how these concepts could manifest themselves in our everyday lives in consistent and pervasive ways. Kicking it all off was an engaging and enlightening two-hour presentation by multiple best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer. His personality shone through as he made point after point regarding some of the more noteworthy events of his 74+ years of life on this planet. While I’d heard of him, I’d never read any of his forty-three published books, nor heard or saw any of his broadcast interviews or presentations.
However, while standing in line before the show to pick up a few bottles of water, Dr. Dyer strolled past the line and through the crowd, as if a man without a care or worry in the world. Seeing this, a man who is touted as a rock star in the world of self-improvement and healing, strolling through an audience before the show as if it were nothing-made me love him immediately. I mean really, what are the chances we would ever see this happen with pro athletes before a big game, or musicians before a big performance, or even the President of the United States prior to making an address to the nation? In my experience, the chances are nil. Yet this modest man through all his humility, made what was perhaps the most indelible impression upon my mind as to the power of change that one person can bring to this world.
The following day, Dr. Roger Teel, the founding minister of Denver’s nondenominational Mile Hi church-made a thought-provoking presentation of his own, followed by an afternoon presentation by Kate Northrup concerning the psychology of personal finances. Just as important, we were surrounded by friends throughout, not to mention thousands of other like-minded souls who just as easily would have been willing to share their experiences with us as we would with them. It was a wonderful event, filled with possibility and positivity, gratitude and joy, and education and enlightenment.
Being immersed in such an environment, I realized, could not undo a lifetime of immersion in a lesser environment. But it was not meant to. Rather, the primary focus was upon living in the here and now and in anticipating and building a life based not on Fear but in Joy. And while I was something of a sponge there, soaking in many of these details presented to me formally for the first time, my learning curve was very steep and I felt like a kid in a candy store. But, it seemed, most everyone else did, too.
We are all, as I came to realize, a work in progress and life itself is a learning process that continues forever.
For all of the tangible points I encountered during A Course in Miracles and the I Can Do It seminar, the final remarkable event (for this posting, anyways!) in which I participated was a John of God prayer circle two nights ago in Boulder. Sitting in a darkened church meeting room, nearly two dozen of us basked in front of a candlelit altar upon which varying likenesses of ten entities were displayed, among them Archangel Michael, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Mary, Dom Ignacio, and several others.
Since this event was about faith-as well as the exponential power of prayer among a group-it’s easy to describe. That is, everything that took place was of an ethereal nature that simply must be experienced to be understood. In fact, although I experienced it, it’s safe to say I don’t understand it. But then again, that’s how I define faith anyways, and that’s what this event was all about. All I know is that when I left the meeting, I felt enervated, healed-at least from the pain in my hand, and that’s what I’d been praying for, and that I had several new and positive people that were now part of my life.
Note: John of God is a healer who lives in Brazil, in a location known as The Casa. The basis of his healing is simple, but sometimes difficult to find in our everyday, manic worlds-Love, that is. If you are interested for whatever reason, I highly encourage you to research him online, in writing, or in whatever manner suits you best.
Finally, please always remember that every entry I make in this blog is created with love and gratitude and joy. The Love and the Joy comes from my heart and is directed both from the place inside me where my words gather for eventual presentation to you as well as for the powerful feeling I get from writing. The gratitude I have is for you, the reader, whom I hope will take something positive from what I have written here, even if-maybe especially if-all you take from it is a smile